A few months ago, I switched to the cable company that everyone loves to hate. Recently as I was paying bills, I realized I’d never gotten a bill from them. So I searched their website until I found the number for customer service (which is quite well hidden). I called at 7:02 pm, only to find out that they close at 7:00. A couple nights later, I called again, only to find out there were “longer than average hold times”. I waited a few minutes then gave up. On my third attempt, I searched for a way to find my account online (bear in mind, I had received nothing from them. No bills, no email, nothing). Somehow from the website they were able to identify me by my location, which was pretty cool, and after a bit more effort on my part, I found they had assigned me an email address and were sending my bills to that account! Which would’ve been OK, if only I’d known about it! To make matters worse, three months of bills had been sent to that unknown account, which also included installation charges, late fees and a disconnect notice! Adding insult to injury, it took a whole bunch of time and effort on my part to even find this out. Why do I have to work to get my cable bill?
Don’t turn your customers into indentured servants! While customers do want to be able to help themselves and get the information they need, when they need it, make it easy for them. Here are the first five of ten best practices that will give your customers a better web self-service experience:
- Make it easy to find – this seems obvious, but if customers can’t find what they’re looking for then web self-service doesn’t really exist, does it? To maximize “findability”, try the following:
- Integrate web self-service into the information architecture of your website
- Design web self-service so that it has the same look and feel as your corporate website
- Invest in search engine optimization
- Make sure support pages are indexed and ranked
- Use caution in obscuring phone numbers and other contact information
- Ideally, offer multichannel choices and a consistent experience across all channels
- Make your website easy to use – this is critical. If it feels confusing, or hard, customers won’t use it. To improve usability, follow these recommendations:
- Focus on design simplicity
- Customers’ use of your website is probably infrequent. They don’t want to have to learn how to use it, they just want to resolve the issue at hand and get on with their life.
- Follow the 80/20 rule – about 80% of your visitors are looking for 20% of your content. Place this 20% prominently
- Don’t offer every possible choice, focus on the probable actions that are most likely to help
- Offer icons or product images to help customers select the starting point of their service experience
- Focus on design simplicity
- Understand your customers’ issues – most customer goals for web self-service can be boiled down to two objectives: find information and get help. Those two goals must be acknowledged and ingrained within your web support experience.
- Information that satisfies the “find information” goal should be the primary content on the page
- Information that satisfies the “get help” goal should also be visible
- Don’t build your self-service experience based on how internal departments or existing workflows are structured. If that doesn’t match the “mental model” of how customers see the world, this will only confuse them. Customers just don’t care about your company’s internal structure, they want to resolve their issues as painlessly as possible!
- Provide clear and readable content
- Content should be easy to read, written in plain language, no jargon, and to the point
- Users are notorious for quickly scanning, trying to locate the “information scent” of the knowledge they are after, so enriching your content with graphics, diagrams, video thumbnails, bullet points and bolded text sometimes has the effect of forcing the user to glance at these elements while scanning. This will increase their engagement.
- Good content is absolutely critical!
Next time I’ll identify the remaining five best practices. It may seem daunting to try to tackle them all at once, and that isn’t advised. View web self-service as a long-term, sustainable commitment to your customers, achieved through continuous refinement and improvement.
If you need help on your journey to achieve better customer experiences and the benefits that come with it, reach out to us and let CPI serve as your expert guide.